Student and staff exchange made possible after securing Erasmus+ funding

Alianza 4 Universidades (A4U) has been successful in gaining Erasmus+ funding, securing 275.050,00€ in the latest round of funding award. A4U is a consortium of 4 Spanish public universities: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Thanks to this funding student and staff exchange will be carried out between universities members of A4U and their partner universities in Russia, South Africa, Iran, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. As a result of the exchange, students will return with improved language and inter-cultural skills, increased confidence, and gain international experience that counts towards their qualification. Staff will get to know first-hand the workings of a different educational system, learn and share new ideas and explore best practices to take back home. They will also be able to benefit from research and teaching development opportunities, and receive training.

Bachelor, Master and PhD students as well as teaching and administrative staff from all subject areas from partner universities and A4U universities can apply. Erasmus+ funding covers travel and living expenses from 3 to 5 months for students, and for 7 days for staff. The time spent abroad is recognised by the sending university, and the obtained credits count towards the student’s academic record. Staff deliver 8 hours of teaching or receive training during their stay.

148 staff and students have already taken part in the exchange between A4U and its partner universities in Russia, South Africa, Iran, India, Indonesia since 2015, and 164 more will join them in the next two years.

It is expected that as a result of this exchange programme, participating partner universities and universities members of A4U will:

  • Help students and staff boost their professional, social and intercultural skills, as well as employability;
  • Forge cooperation in teaching and research;
  • Attract talent and increase the number of international students and staff, thus contributing to their diversity and internationalisation.

Check Erasmus+ stories of students and staff who took part in the exchange on

The universities of the A-4U support the Call on the European Union to strengthen research in Social Sciences and Humanities

A temporary alliance of universities in countries called ‘leading in Social Sciences and Humanities’ by the European Commission, found that there is a strong consensus amongst the European institutions about the need to strengthen SSH research and improve its integration in Framework Programme 9. To help the European Commission to define the actions needed to implement this vision, the authors jointly make five recommendations:

1. The creation of an SSH Platform and strengthening of multidisciplinary collaboration
2. Encouraging researchers to think about how to generate academic and societal impact when drafting proposals
3. Recognizing that all disciplines crucially contribute to the goals of an inclusive and prosperous Europe
4. Investing in high-quality SSH research & innovation opportunities
5. Adding a target budget of 10% to the existing Key Performance Indicators for Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH).

The position paper with the five recommendations is available for download. Other organisations are encouraged to show their support to this call on the EU until 28 February 2018. After this date the final document will be sent to representatives of the European Institutions so that they consider it in the design of the EU’s IX Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9).

The rector’s office hosts the general meeting of the Alliance 4 Universities, reviewing the various projects under way

On 5 February 2018, the rectoral building of Pompeu Fabra University hosted the board of directors and the general meeting of the Alliance 4 Universities (A4U), a strategic association made up of four of the main public universities in Spain: Pompeu Fabra, the Autonomous of Barcelona (UAB), Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) and the Autonomous of Madrid (UAM).

The meeting was chaired by vice-rector Pelegrí Viader, on behalf of Jaume Casals, UPF rector and chairman of the A4U. Also in attendance were Margarita ArboixJuan Romo and Rafael Garesse, rectors of UAB, UC3M and UAM, respectively, and also vice-chairs of the Alliance. Enric Vallduví, vice rector for research projects at UPF, acted as general secretary, and Jaume Badia, UPF manager, as treasurer.

The agenda, which involved the accountability of 2017 and the approval of the budget for 2018, included the status of the various projects in which the A4U is currently working, related to research, international relations and the IUNE Observatory, which aims to contribute to the knowledge and analysis of the research and technology carried out in the Spanish university system.

Another field that has been dealt with is the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, organized jointly by the universities of the Alliance whose 2018 graduation ceremony, corresponding to the second class, will be held at the Autonomous University of Madrid (last year it took place at the Cosmocaixa, organized by UPF).

The IUNE Observatory and OPERA, two key elements of the A4U

The IUNE Observatory is the result of the work by a group of researchers of the A4U, with the collaboration of the ministries of Science & Innovation and Education. It offers detailed information on the scientific activities of all public and private universities of the Spanish University System (SUE) and allows making comparisons between them.

As a novelty this year, among the various dimensions of scientific activity (seven in all, among which 44 indicators are distributed) the dimension of Funding has been added, which includes public and private sources of funding, such as deposits settled by non-financial operations and the income generated by research.

Through the IUNE, several figures have been extracted related with the production and the impact of the A4U between 2007 and 2016. So, taking into account that the permanent teaching and research staff of the A4U accounts for 6.4% of the SUE, the productivity of the Alliance is 2.5 times higher than the average for the SUE, and contributes 17.4% of the total production of the system, in addition to representing 21% of the absolute impact.

In addition, and also during the 2007-2016 period, 19% of the production of the SUE in international collaboration was signed by one of the universities of the A4U, and 19.7% of documents of the SUE located in Q1 (quality journals pertaining to the first quartile) are signed by A4U universities. As for articles published by the Alliance during this period, 48% are written in international collaboration, and almost 56% are found in Q1. These percentages, in respect of the average for the SUE, fall to 43.2 and 50.7%, respectively.

On an international scale, the results of the A4U have been compared with the German system (Excellence Initiative). For example, concerning absolute impact, the total number of citations is ostensibly higher in the German system, but if the size of the universities is taken into consideration, in relative impact (citations per document for 2007-2016), the figures are quite close to each other: 19.22 for Germany’s Excellence Initiative and 15.69 for the A4U.

Another notable area dealt with during the meeting was the presentation of the activities carried out in 2017 by OPERA (Office for the Promotion of European Research Activities), the A4U’s office in Brussels for the promotion of the research by the teaching and research staff of the Alliance’s four universities. Noteworthy are the support for the increase and improvement of the participation by the A4U in the European Horizon 2020 programme, the reinforcement of collaborations and contacts in Brussels, the development of individual OPERA plans for each university, and the organization of institutional visits, all of which activities are intended to be pursued in greater depth and expanded on this 2018.

The first class of the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics graduates

The 26 graduates of the class of 2017 on the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, the first of this interuniversity qualification between Pompeu Fabra, the Autonomous and Carlos III of Madrid, came on stage to collect their diploma commemorating their graduation.

The academic graduation ceremony of the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, promoted by the Alliance 4 Universities and with the collaboration of Obra Social La Caixa, took place on Saturday, 1 July at noon, in the auditorium of Cosmocaixa in Barcelona, chaired by Lluís Caelles, journalist and adjunct lecturer with the Department of Communication at UPF.

Sitting at the head table were Jaume CasalsRafael GaresseMargarida Arboix and Juan Romo, rectors of Pompeu Fabra University, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and Carlos III of Madrid, respectively, accompanied by Àngel Font, corporate director of the Research and Strategy area of the La Caixa Foundation.

A welcome speech was given by Àngel Font and a commemorative audiovisual projection of the class was screened, showing the experiences and feelings of several of those involved, thus opening the ceremony, which was attended by relatives of the graduates and other people associated with the degree.

Afterwards, Jaume Casals, rector of Pompeu Fabra University, gave the reading of the text “A reflection on the improbable in our societies”, by Daniel Innerarity, full professor of Social and Political Philosophy, Ikerbasque researcher at the University of the Basque Country and director of the Institute of Democratic Governance. Due to health problems, professor Innerarity was unable to attend the ceremony and so it was finally read by Josep Joan Moreso, full professor of Philosophy of Law and former UPF rector, under the title “A world of meanings”.

After the performance of the negro spiritual I’m Gonna Sing ‘til the Spirit Moves in my Heart by the UPF choir came the highlight of the event, when the graduates went up on stage to collect their commemorative diplomas from the authorities.

Danny Smith Garrido, on behalf of the class of 2017 of the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, addressed a few words to those present at the ceremony, which concluded with a speech by the rector, Jaume Casals, and the performance of the traditional university anthem Gaudeamus igitur, by the University choir.

The bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economicswas launched the 2013-2014 academic year with the aim of training professionals who may practise in public and private institutions, with solid training in political science and economics and with a strong background in critical and moral analysis that can be provided by the humanities, essentially philosophy.

Lasting a minimum of four years, the bachelor’s degree, which since its inception has had one of the highest entrance marks of the University, involves substantial mobility by its students, who take their studies between Barcelona and Madrid, the home of the four centres that make up the A4U. Stages abroad are also promoted.

> Commemorative video of the graduation ceremony posted on UPF YouTube

More scientific productivity and visibility despite scarcity of resources

Spanish universities have increased their scientific productivity, visibility and the number of patents granted despite the loss of human and material resources in recent years. These are some of the conclusions of the new annual report on university R&D&I by the IUNE (Spanish acronym for Research Activity at Spanish Universities), an observatory of the Alianza 4U (the 4U Alliance)—the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

This new edition of the report analyzes the research activity of the Spanish University System (initialed SUE in Spanish) over the last decade. In doing so, it considers a large set of indicators with data on 79 public and private Spanish universities from the years 2006 to 2015.

Economic and Research Data

According to the conclusions of the report, the slight increase in internal spending per researcher in Spain in 2015 does not equal the figures from 2008. Moreover, revenue generated by research (R&D) diminished by 19% from 2008 to 2014, with sharp declines of nearly 67% at some universities. Revenue earned by non-financial operations of the universities, according to the CRUE, has decreased since 2008 by an average of 14.02%, and by more than 18% at some universities.

The number of researchers in the Spanish science system is also in decline, having fallen 9.1% between 2010 and 2015, with a slight improvement in the last year analyzed. The number of professors in the SUE has slightly increased (8.65%), with an average accumulative growth of 0.93%.

Productivity and Collaboration on R&D&i

The productivity of professors almost doubled during this period. On the Web of Science (WoS), a platform that compiles references of the main scientific journals, the average number of publications per professor per year went from 0.49 in 2006 to 0.83 in 2015. By autonomous regions, Catalonia leads as the most productive, responsible for 25.68%, followed by Madrid (with 19.91%) and Andalusia (with 15.63%).

On breaking down production by subject areas, the data show that the experimental sciences continue to be the most represented (with some 36 publications), although they are down compared with 2006 (42%). Noteworthy are the improvements of the social sciences (10.8% at the end of the period compared with 7% at the beginning) and the arts and the humanities (5.89% compared with 3.51%).

With regard to scientific collaboration, the report highlights the increase in international collaboration, which reached 48.11% in 2015, up from 36.8% in 2006. In this area, the United States continues to be the country that collaborates the most, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany.

Impact of Research

As for the impact of the research, in terms of visibility, the report highlights the increase of publications in journals from the first quartile (top 25% of journals with the highest international impact), which went from 49.09% to 53%. Also to note is the increase in the number of patents granted, which increased by 125.36% over the period.

The analysis of competitiveness notes a decline in the number of projects presented in national plans with respect to international plans, data indicative of the search for opportunities in the European sphere (Framework Programme Horizon 2020).

With regard to talent attraction, there was an increase in Juan de la Cierva and Ramón y Cajal postdoctoral contracts as of 2013. FPU pre-doctoral contracts declined considerably in 2008, with a recovery in 2015. The number of theses increased by nearly 113%.

Complete report:

Further information:

The universities of the A-4U are among the 20 most outstanding Spanish entities for economic return in Horizon 2020

According to the latest provisional data available for the period 2014-2016*, the universities of the A-4U are among the top 20 Spanish entities for economic return in EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation ‘Horizon 2020’.

The report of the CDTI (Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico e Industrial) highlights not only the number of activities but also those that are led by Spanish entities.  Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona occupies the 6th position, followed by Universitat Pompeu Fabra (7th position), Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (15th position) and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (17th position).

Moreover, the total of Spanish entities have obtained grants representing EUR 1.933,8 million in calls for proposals between 2014 and 2016. This results in 9,8% EU-28 of economic return for Spain, and a 4th position in the ranking of EU countries with highest number of grants, following Germany, UK and France. These provisional results already surpass not only the total Spanish participation in VII Framework Programme (8,3% EU-28), but also the target objectives for the whole period of Horizon 2020 (9,5%).

Source: CDTI

YERUN General Assembly, March 2017

On 17th March, YERUN members gathered for their General Assembly, hosted by Universidad Autónoma de Madrid with the assistance of the representatives of A4U. The meeting was chaired by Prof. Juan Romo (YERUN President).

Members decided on upcoming priorities for the network taking into account the YERUN Strategic Plan adopted for the period 2016-2020. YERUN members will continue working on research and education collaboration, knowledge exchange and graduates’ employability. The General Assembly also adopted by unanimity a BREXIT statement in order to emphasize the importance of scientific and educational collaboration during the negotiations between United Kingdom and the European Union now that the UK Government has triggered article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The next General Assembly will take place on 26th October at University of Ulm, in Germany.

Institutional Mision to Malaysia

The 4 Universities Alliance (A-4U), a strategic association of four leading public universities in Spain: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona (UPF) has carried out an institutional mission to Malaysia from the of 26th February to 5th March.

Within the strategic framework for the internationalization of these universities, the A-4U has developed the institutional mission in Malaysia with the aim of promoting bilateral collaborations between Malaysian and Spanish universities in the areas of teaching, research and technology transfer. The institutional mission was attended by the representatives of international relations of the four universities and the coordinator of the International Relations department of the A-4U.

The mission, which was held for a week in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru, has developed a series of meetings and visits to the main Malaysian universities to establish contact and strengthen relations with the main agents of the country. The institutions visited were: Universiti Kuala Lumpur(UniKL), University of Malaya(UM), Universiti Putra Malaysia(UPM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia(UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia(USM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and el Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE).

In addition, the A-4U has held meetings with the Spanish Embassy in Malaysia and Aula Cervantes in Kuala Lumpur.


HR logo

The universities of the A4U foster excellent human resources policies for researchers

After recently awarding Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, all of the A4U universities have been acknowledged by the European Commission with the “HR Excellence in Research” award. This recognition supports those research institutions and funding organisations for aligning their human resources policies and strategies with the principles of the European Charter and Code for Researchers, fostering attractive research careers.

The process usually starts off by creating a multidisciplinary team that carries out several consultations within the academic community. The aim is to design an Action Plan that allows achieving a stimulating and favourable working environment, which should not only attract the best researchers in the world, but also keep their talent.

More information: Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) and acknowledged institutions


The universities of the A4U reinforce their commitment to working in a network

From left to right: Jose María Sanz, Margarita Arboix, Juan Romo y Jaume Casals

From left to right: Jose María Sanz, Margarita Arboix, Juan Romo y Jaume Casals

The general assembly of the Alliance of 4 Universities (A4U) held today, 17 January, at UPF has served to strengthen the joint task in teaching, research and internationalization of the four universities that belong to it: Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

Attending the meeting were the four rectors and members of their management teams. It reviewed the main achievements of 2016 and served to sketch out new lines of action with a view to 2017, marked by the firm intention to promote new joint projects.

Review of 2016

In the field of research, the high impact achieved so far in the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission stands out, with resources being obtained in competitive calls by the four universities. UPF stands out especially in Pillar I of the programme, “Excellent Science” with 38 grants, UC3M in Pillar II, “Industrial Leadership”, with 12 grants, and UAB in Pillar III, “Social Challenges”, with 15 grants.

Moreover, this year the IUNE Observatory has become established and become a national benchmark used by many universities to decide their future strategy. The A4U observatory conducts an annual analysis of the research activity in Spanish universities with comparative data.

In the field of internationalization, the joint work by the Alliance allowed initiating relations with the countries of South-East Asia, as is the case of Indonesia, where a mission was organized to present the academic programmes of the different institutions. The Erasmus+ mobility project has been consolidated with 15 Russian universities and 4 in South Africa, which has benefited 121 undergraduate, master’s and doctorate students.

In teaching, the joint degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics has become established after three years with a high level of demand and an entrance cut-off mark of 12 out of 14. The degree aims to prepare professionals who are solidly trained in political and economic sciences, with a significant base in moral and critical analysis thanks to the humanities’ input.

The main feature of this degree is the mobility involved, since students study the degree between Barcelona and Madrid, with the possibility of stays abroad.

Finally, with regard to communication, the new A4U website has been presented, with a revamped design and structure that is better suited to the new technological requirements

Future challenges

The meeting also lay down the lines to follow with a view to 2017, which are based on strengthening the alliance, especially in the international arena, to manage to gain visibility and attract the best foreign students.

Work will also begin to provide new joint bachelor’s and master’s degrees between the four universities, in view of the successful functioning of the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

The Alliance of 4 Universities is a strategic partnership between four public Spanish universities. It was established in 2008 with a joint commitment to promote high quality scientific research and excellence in education. Its objectives are to improve the international mobility of students, researchers and academics, as well as to establish collaborative partnerships in research throughout the world and enhance the international profile of each of the universities.

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